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Reason Foundation

Carbon Dioxide May be Less Important to Global Warming

Samuel Staley
July 17, 2009, 8:27am

One of the more troubling aspects of the global warming debate and the rush to legislate reductions in CO2 has been the surprisingly stability of the earth's temperature over the last decade (as the Heartland Institute has consistently pointed out). If global warming is occurring at a pace necessary to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050, and carbon emissions are the culprit, we should see temperatures increase consistently.

Now, new evidence suggests that mayber our models are wrong. A new study from Rice University questions how important carbon dioxide really is to climate change. According to report on e!Science News web site:

"No one knows exactly how much Earth's climate will warm due to carbon emissions, but a new study this week suggests scientists' best predictions about global warming might be incorrect. The study, which appears in Nature Geoscience, found that climate models explain only about half of the heating that occurred during a well-documented period of rapid global warming in Earth's ancient past. The study, which was published online today, contains an analysis of published records from a period of rapid climatic warming about 55 million years ago known as the Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum, or PETM.

"In a nutshell, theoretical models cannot explain what we observe in the geological record," said oceanographer Gerald Dickens, a co-author of the study and professor of Earth science at Rice University. "There appears to be something fundamentally wrong with the way temperature and carbon are linked in climate models."

It's always struck me as more than a bit naive and arrogant to assume that our climate models have the accuracy to make the predictions advocates of radical carbon reductions claim. Theoretically, ten years of steady temperatures should buy us even more time to make the adjustments we need to.

Few people are asking a critical question: What is the downside of forcing life altering changes to lifestyles, technology, culture, and the loss of freedom implicity in proposed climate change policies if we are wrong about carbon's role in climate change, or climate change more generally?


Samuel Staley is Research Fellow


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